Lab results Featured

5:20am EDT January 2, 2002
Smokestacks loom over the shoreline, dot the highways and dominate inner-city streets, painting a picture of a production-oriented, manufacturing town. But unlike the 21st Century, today Cleveland is sharing the spotlight with biotechnology, a study that promises to play an important role in driving down healthcare costs.

Biotech may not provide jobs for the masses, but Dr. Gary Procop, head of clinical biology at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, knows his work will affect local businesses and average Americans alike. Procop specializes in pathology, but it's his subspecialty, clinical microbiology, that is creating interest at diagnostic labs.

"There is new technology that is allowing a diagnosis to be made much more rapidly and with an equal or higher degree of accuracy than has ever been possible before," explains Procop.

The Clinic has approximately 125 staff investigators and annual research expenditures of more than $70 million.

It is one of the largest private research facilities in the nation.

The hot technology to hit the Clinic's labs is Rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction, or Rapid PCR. With Rapid PCR, a clinical biologist can identify an organ or gene by amplifying the DNA.

This is the same technology used today in the newly developed rapid anthrax test.

Even a very minute amount of an infecting organism can be detected with Rapid PCR. Quicker DNA analysis means quicker diagnosis and quicker treatment. Says Procop, "It all really hinges on the right diagnosis in the lab."

For example, Legionella, the primary cause of Legionares disease, previously took 10 days for a cultural analysis. With Rapid PCR, doctors can have an answer in less than an hour.

The clinical microbiology lab at the Clinic is conducting tests with up-and-coming equipment, such as the the Smart Cycler by Cepheid, which is designed to provide Rapid PCR results by merging microelectronics and molecular biology.

The Clinic is also developing its own marketable test methodology through its Innovations Department, the marketing side of the Clinic, which protects intellectual property developments.

Tests methods developed in Procop's lab are in use at a Cincinnati hospital and are currently being studied at Ohio State University.

One of the most expensive aspects of healthcare is hospitalization. The quicker patients are able to return home, the lower overall average treatment cost.

"No doubt about it…if you can make a quick, accurate diagnosis, get accurate treatment started, you can get people out of the hospital faster, it translates into cost savings," says Procop.

So where is the future of health care headed?

Better delivery. Faster analysis. Better results. Lower costs. And it's moving there quicker every day.

How to reach:The Cleveland Clinic, www.clevelandclinic.org